Captain Scrap, aka Ross Reynolds, has been performing for the last six years, turning a lifelong passion for junk and scrap items into a wonderfully engaging and memorable event for families.
Just like one of his fantastical creations, his show combines the wonder of the imagination with art, superb storytelling, and a few items of discarded materials.
Ross employs a novel approach to storytelling, enticing his audience to immerse themselves in the process.
Here he tells us more about his love for scrap items, the power of story, and why adults sometimes need to channel their inner child…
Can you tell us more about how you first discovered the creative potential in items that others would term as junk?
I have been making things with junk for as long as I can remember. Nothing warms my heart in quite the same way as an enormous cardboard box or broken appliance. As a kid, my favourite outings were scrapyards; scrambling around the towers of wrecked cars, looking for interesting bits and begging my dad to let me take them home.
Do you feel that a discarded item, rather than something valued and treasured, has more versatility for art and story?
Valued treasures generally have their own stories, which can be fun in its own way. I love digging into the history of objects. Junk and found objects are more of a blank slate, their unknown origins are fertile ground for speculation. Plus, a perceived lack of value gives more freedom to smash it up and make something new! However, the distinction between things you can smash up versus valued treasure is quite subjective and regularly gets me in trouble…. As a kid I loved taking things apart – whenever anything was on the fritz I was in there with my screwdriver, often before I checked it was actually broken. It’s a habit I have retained to this day.
Engaging with our imaginations to appreciate beauty and find artistic merit where it isn’t immediately apparent feels like quite an essential skill to develop. Do you feel that children have an inherent ability to see the possibility of what something could be, rather than what it actually is? And are we in danger of losing this skill as we grow up?
I think kids have an advantage. They are explorers in a strange land, and they see things that we take for granted in a fresh way. As adults, we have lots of preconceived notions. It’s easy to get stuck in the day to day, to stop playing and exploring, and I think our lives are poorer for it. One of the reasons I love working with families is that you can pull adults into the mix. I like to give them a glimpse of a world they might have forgotten, and show the kids that yes, grownups can play, too.
During your shows, the audience become the storytellers in what you describe as a ‘collective creation’ – could you tell us more about this? Also, how important do you think it is for children and young people to have an active, collaborative role in this process?
I love interacting with my audience – it’s a way to plug in directly to the collective creative power of all those fantastic brains! By engaging the audience, they aren’t just watching a show they are part of it, investing in it, and they can guide and shape it. I think it’s very important for kids to understand that they can shape and create their own stories. Among other things, stories are models of the world that let us explore and play with ideas. Understanding that you can change a story is a step towards changing your own personal story, becoming a more active participant in your own life.
It seems that you are yourself reclaiming stereotypically negative words such as ‘rubbish’ and ‘junk’ to challenge the way we think about these terms. Junk Pioneer, for example, sounds like a worthy achievement! Can you tell us more about what is involved to become a fully-fledged Junk Pioneer?
I love challenging established notions and nudging people to look at things from different angles. I don’t think that ANTHING is 100% waste - everything can be reused, remade, reimagined. If you invest a bit of time you can make anything, and you get so much more back than just the end product. You get to learn and make mistakes and express yourself. As for how to become a Junk Pioneer – stage one: boxes, string, bits of wood. Go play!
You enjoy camping and exploring the great outdoors – would you mind telling us more about your woodland adventures?
The woods are ace! As a storyteller they are not only the perfect venue, but also where many stories were born back when the mysterious and dark Wildwood was the edge of the world to many people. As a maker, they are a treasure trove of possibilities! Materials literally grow on the trees!! One day I hope to live in the woods, Captain of a great scrappy treehouse ship, sailing through the canopy, looking for adventure and whatever comes my way.